Caitlyn Jenner is best known as a tabloid celebrity and relative of the Kardashian clan who publicly transitioned as a transgender woman. But “Untold: Caitlyn Jenner” – an episode of the new Netflix documentary series “Untold” that highlights underrated sports stories – highlights the events that first gave Jenner international recognition; namely, her gold medal win as a decathlon athlete at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Jenner tells her own story, describing an intense training regimen that involved grueling exercise every day for four years. Director Crystal Moselle (“The Wolfpack”, “Skate Kitchen”) supports Jenner’s memories with archival footage, collected from home videos, practice footage and clips from the Olympic Games broadcast. The combination of contemporary footage and the contemporary internal monologue creates a kind of sports broadcast dream: letting the audience hear the athlete’s thoughts at the moments when Jenner performs seemingly impossible jumps, races, jumps and throws.
But when the sports footage is rich in detail, the treatment of the supposedly untold portion of this story is thinner. The documentary shows that the greatest athlete in the world – as decathlon winners are often called – was a transgender woman. Yet Jenner’s view of her past suggests a unique estrangement. She talks about how she “built this Bruce character,” as she puts it, and she attributes her successes to this invention. She acknowledges that she used sports to avoid accepting her gender identity, but she remains proud of what her creation has accomplished. It’s an intriguing perspective that unfortunately gets little follow-up or elaboration, leaving the film flat-footed as it steps off the runway.
Untold: Caitlyn Jenner
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 9 minutes. Watch on Netflix.